Zaila Avant-garde attends the 2021 ESPY Awards at Rooftop At Pier 17 on July 10, 2021 in New York City. The 14-year-old from Harvey won the Scripps National Spelling Bee on July 8, becoming the first Black student from the United States to do so. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)
BATON ROUGE – Trying a novel approach to increase vaccination rates among young Louisianians, Gov. John Bel Edwards released public service announcements starring National Spelling Bee Champion and Guinness Book World Record Holder Zaila Avant-garde on Thursday.
The14-year-old Harvey resident won the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee July 8 becoming the first Black winner from the U.S. in the history of the spelling bee. She also set Guinness world records by the age of 13 in basketball categories for juggling, dribbling and bouncing.
Avant-garde, who filmed the PSAs last week at the Governor’s Mansion, has already been vaccinated. In the two PSAs, she is shown spelling, playing basketball and explaining the importance of vaccination.
“My friends and I just want to be kids again,” she said. “The ability to play or hang out without a mask.”
Currently everyone ages 12 and older in Louisiana is eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Public health officials are pushing for more vaccinations with the school year about to start and the state in the middle of one of the largest COVID-19 surges since last March.
“As a Guinness Book World Record Holder and National Champion, Zaila knows a thing or two about winning, which is why I think we should listen to her when she gives us advice about how to win the fight against COVID,” Edwards said in a statement. “Zaila has made all of Louisiana proud with her numerous accomplishments, but I’m most proud that she’s using her voice to speak up and encourage young people to take the COVID vaccine.”
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